Couples Communication: Creating a More Satisfying Relationship – for Life

Part IV: If We Can Communicate at Work, We Can Communicate at Home

Many of the communication tools we have been discussing are not a matter of right ways or wrong ways, good or bad, but simply a matter of approaches that work vs. those that don’t. Think about effective communication in the workplace. When we’re frustrated at work, we take our time, collect our thoughts, ask our supervisor when would be a good time to have a discussion, and express our concerns as calmly as we can. Hopefully we even offer potential solutions. Every one of those steps is helpful in couples communication.

It’s not easy to manage our anxiety or frustration, but at work we do it anyway, because we know that any other approach is very likely to fail. We take a breath, and we take our time to think through how we want to deal with the problem, rather than just blurt out a complaint or an accusation. If we can do that at work, we can do it with our partner.

One of the most important considerations in communication is choosing the right time. Nudging your partner in the ribs at 3:00 am and demanding to talk about something that is bothering you is not the start of a productive conversation.

We don’t barge into our supervisor’s office or interrupt them when they are doing something else – we ask for a meeting time. In the same way, it’s hugely helpful to ask our partner whether now is a good time to talk. The answer to that question can be yes, let’s talk, or it could be no, but give me an hour, or any time up to 24 hours, to clear away other distractions.  This approach helps ensure a focused, clear-headed discussion. Importantly, it also makes us practice managing emotions by having to hold on to the issue until the agreed-upon time, rather than immediately spewing out emotions and demanding immediate resolution from our partner.

We’ll talk a little later about the idea of communicating not from our reactive, emotional child-mind, but from our adult, objective logical mind. That’s what we do at work – we try to communicate in a rational, reasonably objective way that recognizes we need to not put the other person on the defensive. And on a good day, we might even offer potential solutions to the work problems we bring up. How often do we do that at home?

It might seem simplistic to apply this work analogy to relationships, but the fact remains that communicating our needs responsibly and maturely is the only possible way that we might get what we want.